More low-income students in suburban Chicago school districts

A number of suburban school districts in the Chicago area have experienced increases in the number of low-income students:

An analysis of Illinois State Report Card data for 83 school districts in the Daily Herald’s circulation area shows poverty rates rose an average of 18 percentage points from 2000 to 2012…In 2000, only East Aurora Unit District 131 and Round Lake Unit District 116 identified at least one-third of students as low-income. None of the 83 districts’ poverty rates were above 50 percent.

By last year, 23 school districts reported their low-income student populations exceeded one-third. And of those, 11 had poverty rates that topped 50 percent.The most drastic increase over that period came in West Chicago Elementary District 33, where the low-income population jumped to 76 percent from 23 percent. Superintendent Kathy Wolfe didn’t respond to requests for comment…

Eight of the top 10 districts in poverty growth are in DuPage County, where the Hispanic population rose 50 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to a 2011 report by the county’s Department of Economic Development and Planning. Over the same period, the number of county residents living in poverty doubled, U.S. Census data shows.

This is not surprising given the increase in poverty in the suburbs in recent years. Yet, it highlights two other issues:

1. Some suburban communities and organizations just don’t perceive themselves as communities where lower-income people live. Traditionally, American suburbs were places for the middle- and upper-class. And, it would be interesting to see how many wealthier Chicago suburb residents would be willing to move to suburbs that have a reputation for being more working- or lower-class. My prediction: few, particularly when articles like this highlight the challenges for suburban schools, a common selling point for suburbs.

2. These same communities and organizations haven’t always allocated or shifted resources to facing the issues that accompany poverty and lower incomes. Providing more resources for schools may be unpopular with many, both because it could mean increased taxes but also because it may mean less money for other local services.

Both of these are hurdles to overcome.

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